Holy Hospitality: Pairing Hygge with Gospel Hope
Cozy sweaters in the colors of fall foliage. Woodsy scents. Wool blankets. These are the details of October dreams. It doesn’t matter that the majority of my state (Texas) still boasts summer weather—as soon as the end of September arrived, I felt compelled to fling open my front door and roll a pile of pumpkins inside.
Whether you live where the seasons barely change or in the epicenter of autumn glory, it’s easy to be swept up in all the experiences of the season. As you scroll through posts featuring fall fashion, home decor, and dessert ideas, you may start to notice a certain buzzword has made its return:
- “5 Hygge Home Tips That Will Fill Your Space with Cozy, Warm Vibes”
- “Meet Cabincore—A Fall Fashion Trend For Peak Hygge”
- “As the Nights Draw In . . . Hygge Is Back”
I asked Jamie Erickson, author of the brand new book, Holy Hygge: Creating a Place for People to Gather and the Gospel to Grow, how she would describe hygge. Here’s what she said:
Hygge is a Danish lifestyle practice that engenders feelings of comfort, contentment, and coziness. To the Danes, it’s a way of making sanctuary here on earth. It mimics the perfection of the first home in the garden. Because it leaves God out, however, it falls short of the paradise-like atmosphere that it was intended to nurture.
On its own, hygge is just mere veneer. But when paired with the hope of the gospel, hygge can help you open your home to others in order that you can introduce them to Jesus—the One whose Spirit is making a home in you.
Hygge isn’t a practice limited only to the fall season. At other points in the year, you may have attempted to escape the pressures of Pinterest while trying to create a space that reflects the beauty and comfort of Christ. You may have wondered how to establish a life-giving home that is beautiful and that builds a legacy of faith for your family, friends, and neighbors for generations to come. Jamie addresses these questions and more in Holy Hygge.
In the book, Jamie opens Scripture and shows how the breathtaking design for hospitality and our homes begins with God Himself. In this interview, she shares why hospitality isn’t a suggestion, what’s at stake if you don’t open your doors, and how you can begin incorporating the tenets of hygge into your life today.
K: Would you tell us a little about yourself and your family?
J: I’m an inner-city girl from Phoenix, Arizona, who met and married my college sweetheart about twenty years ago and then followed love all the way to his home in the deep woods of central Minnesota. He’s a Danish-American who grew up in a teeny-tiny, Mayberry-esque town with a desire to raise a family in the same carefree and cozy Scandi way he was. In time, we welcomed five kids, and we’ve been cocooning them in our own special brand of craziness ever since.
K: At the beginning of your book Holy Hygge, you wrote:
Let’s not forget that before God made humanity, He made a home for them. With breath-filled words, He hung the stars to drive the shadows away and flung the planets into motion, setting both time and space. Out of nothing, there was something. In the middle of it all, He built a sacred place, the first home. God was the first homemaker. (Holy Hygge, 21)
What does it mean that we, as Christ-followers, are now called to be homemakers? How does hygge tie into that calling?
J: In Genesis 2:15 (KJV), God charged Adam to “dress” and “keep” the garden. In other words, they were to continue the creative work that He had started in that first home. He was giving them full authority to welcome others in the same way that He had welcomed them:
- To build familial connections and relationships.
- To care for themselves and for others.
- To nurture spaces of beauty and order and purpose.
- To wrap themselves in comfort.
- To cultivate a heart of contentment and gratitude.
- To lay aside their labors for a time in order to rest.
He was inviting them to follow in His footsteps—to make a home where everyone could feel right at home.
Now, on the other side of the garden, God’s mandate for making a home remains. But in many ways He’s left the details for how best to do that up to us. Hygge, with its seven basic tenets of hospitality, relationships, well-being, atmosphere, comfort, contentment, and rest, can provide us with some practical, workaday tools for helping us keep that Garden charge in our often cluttered and chaotic twenty-first century lives.
Our family, friends, and neighbors crave sanctuary. Like Adam and Eve, they want to be seen and known and loved. When we hygger, we can bring a little bit of garden-like peace to their days. We can create homes where they feel comfortable enough to unleash their burdens and find the true and lasting peace of Jesus.
K: In the Old Testament, hospitality was not just a suggestion. The theme appears throughout the New Testament also. Why do you think we struggle to obey this command? What are some excuses that we may tell ourselves to avoid welcoming others to our table?
J: There are a number of excuses that we often dole out for not opening our doors or setting an extra spot around our table, but I think they can all be distilled down to the following two things:
First, hospitality is commonly confused with entertaining. Entertaining demands that we sterilize our homes, serve gourmet meals, and use the good china. Entertaining is about presentation and perfection. It’s work, so we hesitate to do it. Hospitality, on the other hand, welcomes authenticity. It doesn’t demand that we secret our real selves and our real struggles away. It allows us to bring our humanity to the table and encourages others to do the same. Hospitality is about people, not a finished product.
Second, we’re often too self-focused. When we spend too much time worrying about the size of our home, the quality of the food, or the manners of our children, we can easily talk ourselves out of welcoming others. But the truth is, people crave genuine connection more than they care about the color of your couch or the plate presentation of the potatoes. When we can learn to take our eyes off of ourselves and “look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others,” as Philippians 2:4 says, we will feel much more comfortable extending our tables and inviting others to taste and see that the Lord is good.
K: What is at stake if we don’t show hospitality to others?
J: The gospel will still spread whether or not you or I open our doors. God promises that even the rocks will cry out if we remain silent. But we’ll be missing out on the opportunity to partner with Him. We’ll forfeit our chance to be part of what God is doing in the lives of our family, friends, and neighbors if we don’t welcome others with the open arms of hospitality.
God doesn’t need to use our tables, but He chooses to. The question is, will we let Him?
K: What practical advice would you give to someone who wants to begin incorporating some of the tenets of hygge into her life, but doesn’t know where to begin?
J: One easy way to begin sharing the comfort of hygge is to encourage others—send a text, write an email, mail a card. Encouragement is the passing on of courage. No one has ever said, “I feel too encouraged today.”
In these turbulent times, we could all use more courage. Anytime you feel the prompting of the Spirit to acknowledge the gifts of others or to voice your appreciation for them, do it. Don’t spend one second in hesitation. Encouragement, when offered sincerely, is a small act of hygge that will have a rippling effect, sending big lavish waves of love into the world.
K: What is your hope for the woman who will read Holy Hygge? Will you share a prayer for her here?
J: I hope that Holy Hygge will exhort women to begin seeing their homes as a backdrop for kingdom work. I hope it will inspire them to open their doors in order that their family, friends, and neighbors can feel their way to God and find Him (Acts 17:27).
God, You were the first homemaker. You made a place filled with truth, goodness, and beauty. You made a sanctuary. And now You invite us to do the same. As your ambassadors, may we nurture homes that reveal Your garden-like hygge to the world. When all the earth totters, keep steady our pillars (Psalm 75:3) so that we might create a place for people to gather and the gospel to grow. Amen.